Chemical hair straighteners linked to higher risk of uterine cancer for Black women, study shows

A new study that Black women are at a higher risk of uterine cancer because of their use of chemical hair-straightening products.

Women using chemical hair-straightening products are at a higher risk of uterine cancer than women who reported not using them, a new study by the National Institutes of Health found. Researchers noted that Black women may have a higher risk because they are more likely to use such products more frequently. 

A group of researchers with the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences looked at the hair care habits of more than 33,000 women and found that those who used chemical hair straightening products at least four times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer. 

Side-by-side of natural and relaxed hair.NBC News / Getty ImagesResearchers said chemicals like parabens, phthalates and fragrances in hair care products disrupt the endocrine system, which helps regulate hormones. That could, in turn, raise the risk of uterine cancer, the most common cancer of the female reproductive system.

“Sixty percent of the participants who reported using straighteners were Black women. The bottom line is that the exposure burden appears to be higher among Black women,” said Chandra Jackson, a participant in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Earl Stadtman Investigators program, who co-authored the study. 

The study’s lead author, Alexandra White, the head of the agency's Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, said: “We see a doubling of risk for frequent users, and that’s a very alarming figure. For non-users, the absolute risk is about 1.64%, and then when you look at frequent users, the risk goes up to 4.05%. It’s a notable increase in risk.”

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Updated: 2 weeks ago
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